Publication date: Sep 16, 2023
In 2021, only 6. 4 million of the 10. 6 million people with tuberculosis (TB) were diagnosed and treated for the disease. Although the World Health Organization recommends initial diagnostic testing using a rapid sensitive molecular assay, only 38% of people diagnosed with TB benefited from these, due to barriers including the high cost of available assays. Pooled testing has been used as an approach to increase testing efficiency in many resource-constrained situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has not yet been widely adopted for TB diagnostic testing. Here we report a retrospective analysis of routine pooled testing of 10,117 sputum specimens using the Xpert MTB/RIF and Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra assays that was performed from July 2020 to February 2022. Pooled testing saved 48% of assays and enabled rapid molecular testing for 4156 additional people as compared to individual testing, with 6. 6% of specimens positive for TB. From an in silico analysis, the positive percent agreement of pooled testing in pools of 3 as compared with individual testing for the Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra assay was estimated as 99. 4% (95% CI, 96. 6% to 100%). These results support the scale-up of pooled testing for efficient TB diagnosis.
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